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Mr. Loughton: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Mullin: I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not. I have only a minute or two left.

In September last year my Department published planning policy guidance note 10, to which the hon. Member for Lewes referred. It is intended to assist planning authorities in the preparation of their waste local plans, and the determination of planning applications for waste management facilities. It also provides specific advice on the criteria for the siting of such facilities.

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I understand that a consultation draft of the East Sussex and Brighton and Hove plan was published in 1998, but that the deposit draft of the plan has been delayed owing to the disagreements mentioned a moment ago. In particular, I believe that disputes have arisen over the sites identified for future facilities, including--perhaps especially--those identified for energy from waste plants.

As I am sure hon. Members will appreciate, it would not be appropriate for me to prejudice any subsequent intervention by the Secretary of State in the adoption of the plan by discussing the merits or otherwise of prospective sites. That should be a matter for local debate and consultation. The Secretary of State will scrutinise the plans once they have been placed on formal deposit, to ensure that they generally accord with Government policy on planning for waste management.

I was, however, disappointed to learn that the main obstacle to the plan's adoption appears to be a dispute between the two authorities. In "A Way with Waste", we made clear our belief that the integrated approach to waste management, which is crucial to the meeting of our goals, could succeed only through close collaboration and co-operation between local authorities. That is particularly true in areas with two tiers of local government such as East Sussex, where responsibilities for collections and disposal are split. If we fail to achieve the levels of co-operation needed to meet our goals, we are committed to re-examining the whole structure of local authority waste management responsibilities.

East Sussex and Brighton and Hove have already shown that they can work together in securing private finance initiative support for their integrated management scheme. I understand that they are also working on a joint municipal waste management strategy, which will set out policies and be an important instrument for building co-operation, owned and agreed by all authorities in the area. My Department will shortly issue further guidance to authorities on the development of such strategies. We are particularly keen for unitary authorities to work jointly with their neighbours.

Mr. Baker: Does the PFI credit money depend on agreement being reached and maintained between the two authorities?

Mr. Mullin: I will come to that later.

The joint PFI scheme and the municipal waste strategy are both positive steps. We will of course monitor the PFI project in the period leading to the contract signature. Any delays or departures from the approved plan, including any caused by differences between the partner local authorities, will obviously be investigated, and may require renewed approval, which could jeopardise the PFI credits. I hope that the authorities will now move swiftly to resolve their differences.

Question put and agreed to.

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